Home fire pits come in many shapes and sizes. A common misconception about tabletop fire pits is they are primarily designed to warm outdoor spaces.
Do tabletop fire pits give off heat that feels warm? Even though they emit heat, they are much less efficient at radiating warmth than a standard space heater.
The average BTU/hr for a tabletop fire pit is 50,000, which is similar to a campfire. Mildly warm but not searing hot. For a tabletop fire pit to emit significant heat, it needs to be gas-powered.
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How Much Heat Do Tabletop Fire Pits Give Off
As with standard-size fire pits, the amount of heat produced depends on various factors including the size of the tabletop fire pit, the type of fuel it uses and the environment it gets installed in.
A medium-size gas-powered tabletop fire pit emits around 50,000 BTU/hr or 52,753 kilojoules.
This isn’t an insignificant amount of heat, especially when you consider it’s similar to a medium-size campfire and hotter than a barbeque grill with three active burners (around 40,000 BTU/hr).
Yet, think about how close you need to get to your grill before you can feel its heat warming your skin. If you’re further than four feet, you’re unlikely to feel any warmth at all.
The larger the fire the more heat it’s going to emit which is why traditional fire pits are hotter than tabletop fire pits. They’ve got size on their side.
Though it’s important to note that even large fire pits require proximity to be noticeably warm. By their nature, outdoor flames are inefficient heat radiators.
They direct heat upwards, not outwards as you might expect, so any warmth is easily lost to the atmosphere unless a reflective surface is used to bounce the heat downwards into a particular space.
Tabletop fire pits, being smaller and more controlled than traditional wood burners, do give off heat but only in modest amounts.
They’re mostly designed to add ambiance and natural romance to outdoor areas. You probably couldn’t heat a chilly outdoor seating area enough for blankets and long sleeves to be discarded, to put it that way.
Here are some reasons tabletop fire pits can only produce limited amounts of heat:
1- Their Size – They need to stay safely contained within a small trough/depression on a tabletop.
2 – Outdoor Fires Are Inefficient Radiators – It’s the coals, not the flames, that emit the most heat. Fires look pretty and feel hot when you get very close but they’re not powerful enough to fully warm a space unless the heat from the coals is directed sideways and outwards and then insulated (such as under a deck). It’s why the hottest fire pits are sunken into the ground.
3- The environment – Open flames need ventilation and this means ample space. If your tabletop fire pit easily heats an outdoor area, the area is probably too enclosed. Make sure there’s plenty of room for smoke and gas to escape.
4 – Lack of Wood/Coals – Wood burners make the hottest fire pits but they’re unsafe to light on a tabletop or any surface that’s not metal lined, such as a burn barrel. The smoldering coals will just burn right through.
5 – Difference Between The Amount of Heat Produced and The Amount of Warmth Radiated – Tabletop fire pits do give off heat, it’s just that most of that heat gets lost to the atmosphere. For a really warm fire, you need a wood-burning fire pit that produces 90,000 BTU/hr or more.
Heat Produced From A Tabletop Fire Pit vs Regular Fire Pit
A medium-size tabletop fire pit produces between 40,000 and 50,000 BTU/hr. Whereas a medium to large wood-burning fire pit can easily produce 90,000 BTU/hr or more.
Obviously, there’s a big difference between the two but the type of environment has a bigger impact on both. A relatively small fire can be made to feel significantly hotter than a large open fire provided its heat gets directed to the right areas.
The warmth you feel is not the same as the warmth a fire gives off. It’s simply the amount of heat that manages to make it to you before being lost to the atmosphere.
It’s not about having the biggest flames. If it’s specifically heat you want and not just the ambience and glow of an open fire, installing a reflective surface behind the fire is an effective way to help it radiate more warmth.
Better yet, build a sunken fire pit on a deck or patio and enjoy naturally heated flooring in the winter.
Why Buy A Tabletop Fire Pit For Your Backyard
If tabletop fire pits don’t produce a great deal of warmth, why are they popular?
Here are some of the reasons I still think they’re cool:
1 – Size – They’re smaller and more contained making them suitable for spaces that are too compact for a standard fire pit.
2 – Safer For Children and Pets – There are no burning embers, and most tabletop fire pits have settings to control the size and intensity of their flames as well as auto shut-off features to prevent gas leaks.
3 – Smokeless – Where there’s no wood, there’s no smoke. This makes tabletop fire pits environmentally friendly (when compared with wood burners), less disruptive to neighbors and healthier overall.
4 – Portability – Many tabletop fire pits are completely portable and can be picked up and moved to any suitable outdoor surface. Some contemporary products now use gel fuels making them safe to light indoors. Before you try this, be sure your fire pit is suitable. Read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.
Which Tabletop Fire Pit Gives Off The Most Heat
I’ve done a little digging and discovered a handful of highly rated tabletop fire pits that are capable of producing similar amounts of heat to a standard-size pit. They get much hotter than most tabletop burners.
Here’s one of the most powerful tabletop fire pits currently on the market:
- Rectangular Fire Pit Table with Table Lid. Natural slate table top with steel stamped wicker base creates additional decoration in any living place
- 60,000 BTU LP stainless steel burner Gas Fire Pit
- Unit includes 6 pcs independently table tiles (change color anytime when you want)
- Includes 15lb Fire Glass, 20lb LP hidden in the table (not Included)
- Dimensions: 42 L x 24 W x 24.2 H inch. , Weight 77.5 lbs
Last update on 2023-09-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Helpful Tips To Know About The Amount of Heat Tabletop Fire Pits Produce
If you’re thinking about buying a tabletop fire pit for your backyard, remember these details to secure the best deal:
- Tabletop fire pits aren’t primarily intended to heat outdoor spaces. They’re to add ambiance and light. If you want a tabletop pit that gets extremely hot, you’ll need to spend more on one of the few high-powered products (80,000 BTU/hr or more).
- Tabletop fire pits cannot be safely lit indoors unless they use gel fuels and the manufacturer’s guide clearly states they are suitable.
- Installing a reflective surface behind a tabletop fire pit is a simple way to increase the amount of heat it radiates and make it feel warmer.
Tabletop fire pits do give off some heat and warmth, however they don’t give off very much. It’s not because they’re not worthwhile or well-designed products.
It’s the nature of open fires which are much less hot than most of us realize due to atmospheric heat loss. The amount of heat produced is not the same as the amount of heat that reaches us and warms our skin.